President Barack Obama, Racism and Sexism, and the Nation That Insisted on Moving Backward

Despite the optimism and excitement felt by the majority of people in the United States when Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012, a sizable number found his presidency unacceptable. People deemed Obama a Black Muslim. Questioned his place of birth. Critiqued his Blackness.

You know the rest.  

Obama’s eight years as President of the United States scared some people more than we’ll ever be able to “calculate” or understand. People weren’t so afraid of his liberalism (which was actually neoliberalism or moderate conservatism, by definition, and which has basically dominated politics for decades), as his Otherness.  

His Blackness is all that was different.

The United States has been built on the exploitation of Black men, Black women, and Black children. The United States and its people have made it their on-going goal to make it impossible for people racialized as Black to achieve power and success. As Vershawn Ashanti Young wrote, people en masse took his Blackness, as well as his status as a successful Black man, to mean he was both weak, gay, and feminine. All qualities the United States historically ridicules, qualities which to some people also made the United States look weak, gay, and feminine. All of this is in addition to the long cultural fear of Black men and their supposed innate violence. 

As you know, (White) Republicans made it their number one goal to oppose everything Obama wanted to do, even if it came to saving their own children.

People are that afraid of Blackness. That afraid of Whiteness losing its significance.

People are so afraid of Blackness that the backlash resulted in fascism-like ideologies first in the Tea Party and now in the mainstream Republican Party. The backlash ultimately resulted in people en masse embracing Trumpism, embracing policies and leaders that will, that are killing them and killing their children and killing their grandchildren and killing their friends.

So, to the nation that had a Black president for eight years, years during which equity was embraced more than ever before, years during which you did well, why, why are you insisting that we move backward; why are you afraid of Blackness; why, really why, are you clinging to Whiteness? 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda